During the Monday Night Wars, part of the fun of watching both WCW Monday Nitro and WWE Monday Night Raw was seeing which superstar would jump ship between promotions next. It became common place to see Lex Luger go from WWE to WCW, 1-2-3 Kid become Syxx and then X–Pac and of course Diesel and Razor form the Outsiders and create the nWo. It made the Monday Night War that a lot more fun for fans, as we constantly got to see another dream match whenever another guy would jump.
Before and during the war, there was also plenty of ship jumping going on. While historians only focus on some of the bigger names, it’s interesting to see some of the biggest names in their humblest beginnings. We know Nash was Oz and Hall was the Diamond Studd, but have you ever heard of guys like the Natural, Robbie V, or Damon Striker? Sure you have–you just don’t know that you have yet. That’s where we come in.
Forget the people that you know who got started in WCW like Terra Ryzing, Lord Steven Regal, and Cactus Jack. This list is all about the “oh yeah” moments we get a kick out of when seeing some of our favorite actors in a forgotten role. The same holds true with some of our favorite wrestlers. It’s “Before They Were Stars,” the WCW editions, brought to you in the form of the Top 15 WWE Wrestlers You Didn’t Realize Started in WCW.
15 Rowdy Roddy Piper
We begin our list with the late Rowdy Roddy Piper. For those of us who grew up watching the Hot Scot raise hell in the WWE, it’s all we’ve ever known. However, before he became an icon, he was tearing it up in Mid–Atlantic, which would eventually become WCW. Piper is one of the few men that have the distinction of being part of both the first WrestleMania and Starrcade and Roddy was the only man to have a marquis match on both cards, the main event at ‘Mania and the now infamous Dog–Collar Match between the Hot Rod and Greg the Hammer Valentine.
14 Rhyno (Terry Richards)
If you can believe it, the manbeast did not begin in ECW as a force of destructive nature. He, along with Edge and Christian, rode the highways and iceways of Canada while honing their craft, although Rhyno looked nothing like the animal we would come to know him as today. Early in his career, a fresh–faced Terry Richards would try to play with the Big Boys of WCW, as a jobber in the mid–card, losing to guys like Road Warriow Hawk, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and The Renegade on the company’s B–shows.
13 Rob Van Dam (Robbie V)
He might not have made too many appearances in WCW, but the future Mr. Monday Night would have a few trivia question worthy matches in the promotion. Several years away from the wild Dragon and Yin–Yang inspired tights and boots, a young Robbie V would wear plain singlets and taped up bare feet to match his kneepads. On the old WCW Worldwide show, Robbie V would take on two more “they started in WCW” alum, Scotty Flamingo and, in a TV Title tournament match, Vinnie Vegas. Sadly RVD wouldn’t win the tournament, otherwise he’d be the only man to hold both the WCW and ECW TV titles.
12 Rikishi (Fatu)
In a big two-fer on our list, not only did the WWE Hall of Famer get his start in AWA, WCCW, and WCW as one half of the Samoan Swat Team (along with his future Headshrinker partner, Samu), but the Big ‘Kish is also an early Paul Heyman Guy. The SST didn’t make quite the mark that The Headshrinkers did, nor did they last that long with Heyman before being paired up with Oliver Humperdink. SST were then rebranded as The New Wild Samoans and made an appearance at Starrcade 1989, before moving on the WWE where they'd achieve success.
11 I.R.S. (Mike Rotunda)
Despite being part of the first WrestleMania with partner and brother–in–law, Barry Windham, Mike Rotunda wouldn’t make the big time until years later, when he became Irwin R. Schyster. However, before he would become the evil taxman, Rotunda spent years in WCW as part of the Varsity Club, one of the most underrated stables of all time. Unfortunately, like in the later WCW years, the powers that be didn’t seem to know what to do with their characters in the eighties either. After the Varsity Club splintered, Rotunda became “Captain” Mike Rotunda, sporting a maritime gimmick. Luckily, he left on a high note as Michael Wallstreet, the first member of the York Foundation.
10 Goldust (The Natural Dustin Rhodes)
For the better part of 20 years, the Bizarre One has captivated WWE audiences the world over. Goldust has become synonymous with WWE, to the point that it's easy to forget that the man behind the paint, Dustin Rhodes, got his start in WCW. Which shouldn't be too surprising, as his father was the booker, but it's a testament to how good Goldie has been that his good work in WCW is overlooked. While there, The Natural was a multi-time tag champion (with Ricky Steamboat and Barry Windham) and a U.S. Champion.
9 Jamie Noble (Jamie-San, Jamie Knoble)
No disrespect to Jamie Noble, but he has got to be one of the strangest choices for a road agent that we've ever seen. Most of the time, the agents had phenomenal in ring careers that their charges could look up to but Noble's big claim to fame was a short tryst with Nidia. However, if you look to his roots, as Jamie-San, the masked member of the Jung Dragons in WCW, you'll find Noble was one of the most innovative Cruiserweights the company had ever seen. You barely saw him in action because his heyday was during WCWs declining years.
8 Road Dogg (Brian Armstrong)
You might think, with the Dogg's southern roots and family lineage as part of the Armstrong wrestling family, that he surely would have wrestled in WCW and you'd be right. While brother Steve would be the more known, teaming up with Tracy Smothers as part of the Young Pistols, Road Dogg would gain a lot of experience that he would need for the future, jobbing out to guys like Stunning Steve Austin, Lord Steven Regal and Terra Ryzing. While Bullet Bob is a legend in the sport, it would be his youngest son who went on to become the most memorable of the Armstrong clan.
7 A.J. Styles
He might be Phenomenal now, but a long time ago A.J. Styles was jerking curtains and jobbing out on WWE B-Shows like Jakked. Believe it or not, even earlier than that, the future phenom was part of a team known as Air Raid in WCW. Along with another wrestler named Air Paris, Air Raid came to the ring looking like wannabe versions of Goose and Maverick and had a few decent matches in WCW against the likes of The Jung Dragons and as part of the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team tournament, losing to Kid Romeo and Elix Skipper. Needless to say, Styles was not picked up in the buyout and has opted to wrestle in TNA and the indies ever since.
6 John Laurinaitis (Johnny Ace)
You lose count of how many strange things you can list about John "People Power" Laurinaitis. First, he's the younger brother of Road Warrior Animal. Second, throughout the 90s, the guy was a pretty popular in Japan. He's also the innovator of the Diamond Cutter / RKO (which he called the Ace Crusher). However, the strangest People Power factoid is that before he became the GM of Raw, he was a zany surfer character in WCW and one half of a tag team with the future Franchise, Shane Douglas, as The Dynamic Dudes.
5 Molly Holly (Miss Madness)
She might not have shed as much skin as her fellow Divas, but Molly Holly was just as good as any other women in the ring. This is thanks to her trainer, Dean Malenko, and Hall of Famer Randy Savage. After Malenko trained her, Molly would get her start in WCW as Miss Madness, one of Randy’s valets during the Team Madness days. In real life and in storyline, Macho had Miss Madness train his girlfriend Gorgeous George and it seemed that WCW brass wanted to rebuild their women’s division around Miss Madness (now called Mona) and Madusa. Sadly, cost cutting measures began, leaving Mona future endeavored and on her way to joining her “cousins” in the WWE.
4 Raven (Scotty Flamingo)
It’s kind of strange to acknowledge that Raven was once Johnny Polo, the silver-spooned manager in the WWE, but it's even more difficult to remember his WCW persona, Scotty Flamingo. The future ECW champion was decked out in all kinds of neon, huge earrings, and a ridiculous peace sign necklaces; give the guy a big clock and he might have looked like a white Flavor Flav. Luckily, his skill in the ring occasionally shone through in matches against Masahiro Chono and Brian Pillman.
3 Doink (Matt Borne / Big Josh)
Why no one has ever adopted Doink’s Stump Puller submission is a wrestling mystery, but his time in WCW is not as mysterious. The second generation superstar got his start in the NWA, winning the Tag Team Championship alongside Buzz Sawyer. While he might have been a part of the first WrestleMania, his more memorable pre–clown days were as Big Josh in WCW. If you’re thinking Paul Bunyan–meets–Man’s Man Steven Regal, you’d be on the right track. His biggest claim to fame was heading out to the ring with two live muzzled bears in tow. You know... because he was outdoorsy... and stuff.
2 Smash (Krusher Khruschev)
It’s not too often that a superstar can be part of one the most beloved tag teams in history and also one of the most hated. Barry Darsow is one of those superstars. As Smash, he was part of the WWE’s answer to the LOD, Demolition, which became one of the more popular tag teams of all time. Several years prior to his WWE debut, take the face paint off and put the guy in USSR tights and you get Krusher Khruschev, the third partner behind Ivan and Nikita Koloff. Krusher’s brief stint in WCW netted him gold as one–third of the Six Man Tag Champs alongside his comrades.
1 Edge (Damon Striker)
Being Canadian has its perks when you wrestle in Ontario and the future head of WWE Canada, Carl De Marco, is watching you. That’s more or less the beginning of Edge’s historic and game changing Hall of Fame run in WWE. Had he not have been noticed by De Marco, we might be (barely) remembering him as WCW’s Damon Striker, a gamey jobber, being trounced by members of the Dungeon of Doom, which was the extent of his brief WCW run.